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International Trade Center to look at needs of immigrant community

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s International Trade Center and College of Arts and Sciences, TheBANK of Edwardsville, and additional partners will host a conference on Friday, Oct. 5: “Immigrants in Our Midst,” that focuses on how to better serve U.S. immigrants’ financial, legal and social needs.

internationaltradecenterlogoThe event will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in SIUE’s Morris University Conference Center.

SIUE alumnus Raffi Mikaelian is helping to coordinate the event that includes presentations by regional specialists in the fields of banking, immigration law, Latino outreach, employment services and more. Professionals and students, who seek to increase their involvement with immigrant communities in and around St. Louis, are expected to attend.

“It seems everyone I speak with expresses appreciation for the inspiring presentations offered at the ‘Immigrants in Our Midst’ conference,” Latino Roundtable President Mercedes Collado said. “The years of research and the depth of understanding our presenters convey are informative and eye-opening. Latino Roundtable has been putting together this type of conference for the past 10 years, and will continue with its mission and vision of creating awareness about Hispanic culture and our immigrant community in Illinois.”

Past conference participant and immigration law practitioner Jessie Chappell, founder of Chappell Grant Immigration LLC, says the SIUE ITC conference is valuable not only for immigrants, but also for professionals who have been working in the international community for years.

“Even though I work with immigrants daily, I am still surprised by all of the new information I gain at this program,” said Chappell. “Seeing how vital immigrants are to our neighborhoods and our economy helps me recognize the instability that mass deportations would cause.

“This conference teaches me how to effectively research local immigration trends. I also learned how to connect foreign and U.S.-born communities. This expertise provides the tools to connect my clients with the many resources that can help them succeed in their personal and professional lives.”

Along with Collado representing the Southern Illinois Health Foundation, speakers at the conference will include Greg Budzban, PhD, dean of the SIUE College of Arts and Sciences; Onesimo Sandoval, PhD, of Saint Louis University; Fairmont City Library’s Katie Heaton; Leticia Seitz from Latinos En Axion; Geoffrey Soyiantet of Vitendo 4 Africa; Kristine Walentik from St. Francis Community Sciences; Nicole Cortés of Migrant & Immigrant Community Action; Kristen Shinn from Puentes de Esperanza; Illinois State Police officers; Kingdom House’s Emily Stuart; Maria Torres-Wedding of the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project; and Sara John from Interfaith Committee on Latin America.

The event is open to the public and costs $25. To register, visit For additional assistance with registration or questions, contact Cynthia Cobetto in SIUE’s Office of Educational Outreach at (618) 650-2164 or

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